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Chapter Fifteen
A Thorn Named Charlotte

"An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered."
~ Proverbs 11:9 ~

For the next two days, Darren Hayes was the talk of the town. People lamented his early death, wondered how anyone in their community had obtained drugs, and praised their own children for not being "like him." All this hand washing only fueled Angela Goodman's resolve to keep silent about her niece's involvement with Darren's death. To make matters worse, it was rumored that a girl was in the stolen car with Darren that night, but because she was a minor, the police refused to give her name. The neighborhood gossips had something new to talk about.

Like her mother, Sherri Goodman also had reasons to be uneasy. Though she was never told what happened, her suspicions were strong that the minor was Charlotte. The fact that Darren's death coincided with the same night of Charlotte's broken date, did not go unnoticed by her. It was just too much of a coincidence to be accidental. Truth be told, Charlotte did little to dissuade Sherri from thinking otherwise. Her aunt and uncle may have conveniently forgotten that night, but Charlotte could not. The way she reasoned it, if she hadn't disobeyed by going out on the date, Darren would still be alive.

When Charlotte arrived to school Monday morning, it seemed everyone was talking about 'the mystery girl.' As she walked down the hall to her locker, she imagined her guilt was so obvious and apparent to the world, that, try as she might, she could not hide it from them. She went from one class to the next, counting the minutes until she could return to the relative refuge of her room.

"Look at that," commented a teenager, unaware that Charlotte was listening nearby, "the drug awareness posters are up again."

"It's because of Darren," replied another.

"My Dad's been looking at me like I have horns growing from the top of my head, or something. Just because one guy can't handle what he doses and gets himself killed, the rest of us get blamed," groaned the first teen.

"Tell me about it," sympathized the other. As the two walked away, Sherri approached Charlotte, pulling her aside by the arm.

"Don't you dare say one word about Darren to my friends," she whispered, thinking that Charlotte had been contemplating otherwise.

"Don't worry," replied Charlotte, jerking her arm from Sherri's tight grip, "I won't."

"Just make sure you don't," she threatened. Sherri was terrified of scandal. The close knit community she lived in thrived on social events, community togetherness, gossip, and the general feeling that they were somehow better than other communities. Sherri held her social standing too dear to let Charlotte ruin it for her.

As usual, since Charlotte had no better place to go after school, she arrived home before Sherri. To Charlotte's surprise, Angela was home early from work, and in the living room, gossiping with her mother. Charlotte paused by the doorway, catching her father's name in the discussion.

"I'm just glad my Martha isn't here to see what's become of Charlton Overholt," Grandmother Janice was saying.

"I told her he would come to no good end," said Angela.

continued on next page...
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